Designing Strategy

Unite rigor and creativity to create a successful strategy
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Choosing what to do—and what not to do—is the definition of strategy. In this course, you’ll learn a process that will help you create and take action on a strategy for your business, team, or organization. You’ll follow repeatable steps that are both human-centered and business-focused. By combining rigor and creativity, you can both analyze the world as it is and imagine how it could be better.

Course Outcomes
  • Identify a strategic problem that your organization faces, frame it as a question, and brainstorm possibilities to solve it.
  • Surface and pick the conditions that would need to be true to make the possibility a winning strategy.
  • Build and conduct different types of tests to help you choose among your possibilities.
  • Set your team up to be able to take action on the strategic choices you make.
Course Themes
Business Strategy Prototyping Innovation
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Start Date
Duration 5 Weeks
Time 4 Hours/Week
Format Cohort Course
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What You'll Learn

Week 1: Introduction

Learn a process for designing a strategy that will enable you to take action.
Watch a sneak peek
  • Designing Strategy—A sneak peek of the course
4 Video Lessons
  • Making Choices—An introduction to strategy
  • The Strategy Process Map—A framework for navigating strategy
  • The Strategy Choice Cascade—A way to articulate strategy
  • Strategy is a Creative Act For Everyone
1 Assignment
  • Identify the problem and frame a strategic question—Outline the current Strategy Choice Cascade for your organization, describe the strategy problem that you’re facing, and craft a “How might we” question to articulate the problem.

5 Discussions
  • What brought you to this course, and why have you chosen to learn the skills of designing strategy?
  • Which steps of the Strategy Process Map do you feel most and least comfortable with? Why?
  • Have you ever had a difficult time communicating a strategy or strategic possibility in the past? If so, why?
  • Did anything surprise you about how Westrock uses the Strategy Choice Cascade?
  • What choices are you making in your current role? Can you see how this might be considered strategy?

Week 2: From Problems to Possibilities

Define a strategy problem that you’re facing, frame a question around your problem, and generate new strategic possibilities.
4 Video Lessons
  • Setting the Stage for Strategy—Define a problem, frame a strategic question
  • Framing a “How might we…” Question
  • Invent the Future—Generate strategic possibilities
  • Shape Strategic Possibilities—Apply “Where to Play” and “How to Win”
1 Assignment
  • Generate possibilities—Push your thinking to brainstorm new strategic possibilities that answer the question you framed for your organization. Articulate those possibilities in more detail using the elements “Where to Play?” and “How to Win?” from the Strategy Choice Cascade.

3 Discussions
  • Framing a “How might we” question can sometimes feel tricky, but it shouldn’t be the thing that slows your strategy work down. What are some ways that you’ve found that can help you frame a question?
  • What strategy possibilities did you come up with for your practice case? Are any particularly inspiring and/or radical that you’d like to share? How did it feel to brainstorm and dream big?
  • Think about two organizations that compete with one another–how would you describe their choices? What’s unique about them?

Week 3: What Would Have to Be True?

Review the strategic possibilities you brainstormed and surface the conditions that are necessary to make a possibility a success.
3 Video Lessons
  • What Would Have to be True?—The most important question in strategy
  • Surfacing Conditions—Ask “What would have to be true?”
  • Identifying Barriers—Choose what to test
1 Assignment
  • What would have to be true and barriers—Think about the “What would have to be true?” conditions for each of your strategic possibilities, then identify your early hunches about which ones might be barriers.

2 Discussions
  • Have you ever been in a situation where it was difficult to gain alignment? Were you able to move past this? If so, how did you get “unstuck”?
  • Think of a choice that you’re facing in life or work, and the different options that you’re considering for that choice. How might asking “What would have to be true?” to make each a great option, help you to see them differently?

Week 4: Test to Learn

Learn how to test barriers to shorten your odds of creating a winning strategy.
4 Video Lessons
  • Prove It—Two words that can kill innovation
  • Test for the Future—Design and conduct strategy tests
  • Testing in Strategy
  • One Example of a Guerilla Test
1 Assignment
  • Test to learn—Design and plan out strategic tests that you can conduct to learn more about the barriers you identified as part of the strategy process.

3 Discussions
  • What types of guerrilla tests feel familiar to you? What are you most excited to try?

Week 5: Make a Choice

After you’ve conducted tests for your barriers, you’ll make sense of the results and use that information to make a strategic choice.
4 Video Lessons
  • Telling the Story of Strategy
1 Assignment
  • Decide—Look back across the entire strategy process and take stock of some of the big takeaways from the course, and think about how will you continue to practice strategy after the course is complete.

3 Discussions
  • What do you think will be the most challenging part of deciding on your new strategy? Are you stuck between any possibilities?
  • What are some ways in which this course has changed your view on strategy design? How will you use your new perspective, or how have you already started using it?
  • Have you presented strategy work in the past? What is successful? What were some techniques or tips that helped or hindered this work for you?

Meet Your Instructors

Jennifer Riel

Global Director of Strategy at IDEO

Jennifer has led strategy processes at large public and private sector organizations around the world. She advises senior leaders at several Fortune 100 companies and teaches strategy and innovation at the Rotman School of Management. She co-authored Creating Great Choices with Roger Martin.

More About Jennifer

Roger Martin

Strategy Advisor & former Dean of the Rotman School of Management

Roger is a trusted strategy advisor who's worked with CEOs of companies including Procter & Gamble, Lego, and Ford. He has published 11 books, including Creating Great Choices and Playing to Win, and is recognized as a leading management thinker. Roger has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

More About Roger

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What Others Are Saying

Jose Mateo
Jose Senior Internal Consultant Verizon Process Excellence and Innovation
Designing Strategy
Cohort Course

“Traditionally strategy is about creating a plan and roadmap for getting to a desired future state. This approach to strategy will help you make decisions today! It’s more about the choices you make today based on signals of the future than about the future itself.”

Jose New York, NY

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